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Spending the Day Stockpiling for Y2K

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

At the Four Seasons Market in Thousand Oaks on Thursday, Kristi Lorenz’s grocery cart was a virtual compendium of things that have already become millennium eve cliches.

The cart was packed with bottles of special Y2K bubbly and sparkling cider. But there were also the gallon jugs of water and packages of batteries--last-minute necessities, just in case.

“I was just at the bank,” she admitted. “But I’m really not worried about Y2K.”

And although many shoppers in the county said the same--and nobody reported any panic or elbow bumping in the last-minute search for emergency items--merchants reported that shoppers were out in force Thursday, stocking up for a long party weekend or preparing for the potential of days without utilities.

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Water was the big seller. Most stores also showed a dent in their champagne displays. Propane tanks and camp stoves have been selling strong for weeks.

Few stores said they would be unable to keep up with the demand, but even so, employees were busy stocking shelves.

At Wal-Mart in Simi Valley, water was disappearing off the shelves quickly, and propane tanks and ammunition were among the sporting goods department’s fastest movers, employees said.

At an Arco gas station in Thousand Oaks, the line of cars stretched out into the street. Dry cleaners and formal wear stores said they were swamped making alterations or giving table cloths a firm starch before parties.

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At a U-Haul rental outlet in Ventura, employees couldn’t keep empty propane tanks in stock because worriers were drawn like moths to the, well, to the propane flame.

“As soon as we order them, they’re gone,” employee Josh McHarg said. “We had three on Monday, but we sold them. And lots of people are topping off their gas tanks just in case.”

At the Trader Joe’s in Ventura, where lines filed back to the middle of the store, the management had planned for a run on water and had plenty in stock. The store even posted a sign reading “Y2K H2O” over its shelves.

“People are here to grab some goodies, while they grab water and canned goods,” Manager Mike Somers said.

That described Coleen De Leon of Ventura, who hefted two large cases of bottled water to the checkout line. She stopped by for champagne, but the water was her first priority.

“I need water and toilet paper,” she said. “I’ll just have to get the champagne somewhere else.”

From the west end of the county to the east, the words “just to be safe” seemed to be the unchanging theme for those stocking up.

“I already bought over 300 cans of food and I want to make sure I have money for extra food or water,” said Maria Medel, who withdrew $500 from her Ventura bank “just to be safe.”

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Sharon Tiedge of Thousand Oaks and her granddaughters, Amber, 7, and Jessica Ventrone, 4, seemed blissfully unconcerned about Y2K maladies. They planned to be at home, more concerned about trying to stay up until midnight, ready to bang pots and pans and pop noisemakers at the fateful moment.

“Where would I put [the stuff I stocked up on]?” Tiedge asked. “I always have a lot of extra food in the pantry. And how can you stock up on gas?”

Other consumers seemed a bit more worried.

Martha Huerta of Thousand Oaks and her family canceled a planned trip to Las Vegas and instead stocked up on water, food and soda for an at-home party and a couple days of hibernating.

“We’re kind of scared to go out,” she said. “You see so many things on the news. So we’re just going to hang out and watch movies.”

Fernando Ayala of Newbury Park filled up several big jugs of water and maneuvered them into place in his Oldsmobile, among his children and bags filled with cans of beans and boxes of rice.

Ayala had already gathered flashlights and even rigged an alarm system on his children’s bunk beds so they could let their parents know they are OK. He said he looks at preparing for Y2K as no different from being prepared for an earthquake.

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Ammunition was selling well all day Thursday at H & S Gun Sales in Ventura. And for the past few months, quite a few first-timers had been purchasing guns, owner Harry Lackerdas said.

About half those new customers were buying before new gun laws go into effect in 2000; the others were thinking about the big 2-0-0-0 changeover and buying a gun just in case the lights go out.

“They’re worried about opportunistic people when the power goes out,” he said, and admitted that he, too, had done a fair amount of stocking up.

“I’ve got 110 gallons of water at home,” he said. “The worst that can happen is I’ll have plenty of water to water my grass with.”

Surman is a Times staff writer; Blake is a Times Community News reporter.


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